Saturday, December 17, 2022

Vintage Ambridge Christmas postcard, circa 1918

"Christmas Greeting From Ambridge"
unposted vintage postcard
circa 1918
personal collection

In the left bottom corner of this card it says, "Christmas Greeting from Ambridge."

Shown on the card with photos' captions:

Left, top: St. Veronica's Church; bottom: Office Building American Bridge Co.

Right, top: First Presbyterian Church; bottom: City Hall, Red Cross Headquarters

Center: Legionville Hollow

Because the other four photos show notable Ambridge buildings, the choice of a scene showing three women strolling in a wooded Legionville Hollow lane as the larger center photo seems to me like an unusual choice. Maybe the scene held some special importance. Or maybe it was simply pretty. Or maybe it just fit better in the vertical space.

The American flag and bible verse at the top seem surprising for a Christmas card: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Rev. 2nd - 10). So merry. But I don't claim any expertise in vintage Christmas postcards, so maybe those are typical for the time.

This divided back postcard, now faded on the right side, was unmailed and had nothing written on the back. I based the "circa 1918" date, in part, on the photo of the First Presbyterian Church showing the church's "auditorium" that was dedicated in December 1917, after it was added to the right side of the earlier "chapel."

The flag, bible verse, and the "City Hall" (Ambridge's first Municipal Building) being described as the Red Cross Headquarters added to my thinking that this postcard might date from one of the U.S.'s WWI years (1917 - 1918), but I can't say with certainty. As do the dresses worn by the women in the Legionville Hollow photo.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Ambridge's Hayes Flower Shop

Hayes Flower Shop
624 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
August 10, 1929

The Hayes Flower Shop was a long-time Ambridge business. I don't know when the shop opened, but it had an ad, shown below, in Old Economy's 1924 Centennial book, Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today. At that time it was located at 455 Merchant St., an address that no longer exists.

Hayes' Flower Shop ad
Economy of Old and Ambridge of Today
June 1924

The flower shop later moved to a storefront at 624 Merchant in the Prince Theatre building. That new location was the only storefront in the Prince building to the right of the theater's entrance. I don't know when the flower shop moved into that space. That address also no longer exists.

I know the shop was still in business in 1937 because it placed the ad below in the St. Veronica High School Senior Class play program. But I don't know when it closed.

Hayes Flower Shop ad
St. Veronica High School
Senior Class play program
May 24, 1937
courtesy St. Luke Parish Valley archives

If I find out when the flower shop opened, moved from one location to the other, or closed, I'll update this post.

If you have any additional information about the Hayes Flower Shop, or any businesses which later occupied that storefront, perhaps with a different building number, please post a comment. Or let me know via email or on the blog's Facebook page.

I still don't know when the Prince Theatre's former entrance and storefronts were razed. Based on the information in the blog's post about the history of the Prince Theatre, maybe in the 1980s? I'd appreciate any information.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Five young men, 5th and Merchant Sts., 1947


3rd from left, Pete Lusty
2nd from left, John Smetanka
other young men unknown
courtesy Dave Lusty

Dave Lusty, AHS '72, sent me this photo of his father, Pete Lusty, and four of his buddies, posing on the west side of Merchant St. near 5th St. in 1947. Pete Lusty would have been 20 years old at the time.

John Smetanka is the only of the four other young men that Dave could identify. If you know who any of the other three are, please leave a comment or contact me.

Note the streetcar tracks on Merchant St. Street cars through Ambridge were replaced by buses in 1934, but the tracks on Merchant St. weren't covered until 1958.

On the east side of Merchant, you can see the Penn Theatre's marquee. To the theater's right: The Penn Grill restaurant and Denmark's shoe store,

The building with the clock is the Economy Bank of Ambridge which was across 5th St. at 500 Merchant.

The Penn Theatre closed in the early 1950s, and the Melody Ballroom opened in the theater's former location in September 1953. The ballroom, Penn Grill, and Denmark's were all badly damaged in a big July 1954 fire. Another massive fire damaged the businesses that occupied the former theater in February 1963: the Bride and Deb Shop on the corner, Penn Grill, and Hankins Shoe Store. 

The former Penn Theatre building was razed after the 1963 fire, replaced by a parking lot. More recently, that corner was the location of the now-closed PNC Bank in 1984

The Economy Bank building was razed in 1984. WesBanco's drive though is now located where the bank once stood. 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Mikush Home Appliance Center, Ambridge's last appliance store

Mikush Home Appliance Center
811 Merchant St.
August 11, 2021
credit: P.J. Shotter

Once, in the 1950s - 1960s, the Mikush Appliance store was one of a number of stores on Ambridge's Merchant St. where a shopper could buy major appliances like washers and dryers, stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers. Some others were Kubek's, Capital, Timney's, and Kelly & Cohen. Ambridge's Sears also did a big business selling appliances. Plus some furniture stores--including Ambridge, Economy, Modern, Goorin & Harris, and Darcel's--also sold them. 

But starting in the 1950s, all of Ambridge's stores were hit hard by a series of blows: the opening of Northern Lights Shopping Center in Baden; the extension of Ohio River Blvd. from Ambridge's 8th St. to Baden, eliminating the need to drive through downtown Ambridge; and then the biggest blow of all: the collapse of the U.S. steel industry and closing of the area's plants and mills in the 1980s. The growth of big box stores in the area didn't help.

So one by one the places that sold appliances in Ambridge closed, until only one remains: Mikush Appliance. 

I believe that Mikush Appliance is now the second oldest retail store in Ambridge, with only Stangl's Bakery being older. Perhaps their longevity is related to the fact that the two stores have been family owned and operated since the businesses began.

Mikush Appliance's story
Andrew Mikush Sr.
courtesy Bob Mikush

In 1929, a Yugoslavian immigrant with a third-grade education, Andrew G. Mikush Sr. [Andrew Sr. elsewhere in this blog post], began going door-to-door selling merchandise that now seems rather unusual: appliances.

But in the days before many families owned cars, selling appliances door-to-door must have been a savvy business idea for Andrew Sr.'s employer, Milleman's, a long-time Ambridge store that sold pianos and appliances.

Andrew Sr., who had worked as a delivery man for Milleman's, turned out to be a quite successful salesman. According to his grandson, Bob Mikush, people trusted his grandfather to understand their needs, undoubtedly helped by his self-taught ability to speak the languages of many of Ambridge's immigrants including Greek, Italian, Polish, and several other Slavic languages. 

Andrew Sr. had a talent for repairing appliances too and developed a reputation not only as an honest seller, but also a skilled appliance repairman, an important skill during the depression years when many people couldn't afford to buy a new appliance when the one they owned stopped working.

In 1932, with Mr. Milleman's support, Andrew Sr. was able to open a business at 926 Duss Ave. (which many might remember as the location of J. Strock Memorials for many years). There he sold and repaired a variety of new and used appliances and their parts: washers, ironers, stoves, vacuums. And, according to his business card, he also sold radios and pianos.  

Thanks to his impressive success, Andrew Sr. was given the Maytag appliance franchise in Ambridge, making the business one of Maytag's earliest dealers. 

Andrew Mikush Sr.'s business card
926 Duss Ave.
courtesy: Bob Mikush

Andrew Sr. wanted to move his business from Duss Ave, to Merchant St., but despite the Great Depression, Merchant St. was busy, and there wasn't any available space he could lease.

Still, Andrew Sr.'s business didn't remain on Duss Ave. for long. By the late 1930s, Andrew Sr. had moved his business to 601 Melrose Ave., a block east of Merchant. While the primary reason the business thrived was probably Andrew Sr.'s reputation for personal customer service, he also seems to have had a knack for promoting special bonuses for buyers. 

Andrew Mikush
classified ad
Daily Citizen
December 3, 1937

Andrew Mikush Sr.
behind counter of store at
601 Melrose Ave.
courtesy Bob Mikush

Andrew Mikush
"All Makes of Electrical Appliances"
601 Melrose Ave.
"Minstrel Varieties" program
Ushers Club of St. Veronica's Church
April 1949
courtesy Good Samaritan Parish Archives

Although I don't know yet exactly when Mikush Appliances was finally able to move into a store on Merchant St., based on the ads above and below, the move to 818 Merchant St. was apparently sometime between April 1949 and December 1950. (I'll update this article if I find a more exact date.)

Andrew Mikush
Electric Appliances
818 Merchant St.
Holy Trinity Dedication program
December 17, 1950

Andrew Mikush Sr. posing behind business' float
for the Ambridge Golden Jubilee parade
on float, grandchildren Roberta Mikush (now Sciulli)
and Andrew "Whitey" Mikush
in front of 818 Merchant St. store
July 1955
courtesy Borough of Ambridge

Andrew Mikush Sr. in front of Mikush Maytag Appliances
818 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

Andrew Mikush Appliance ad
Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

In 1962, Andrew Sr. retired and handed the store over to his son, Andrew R. Mikush Jr.

Andrew Mikush Jr.
Bridger yearbook, 1971

A January 31, 1969, Beaver County Times article about Mikush Appliance's history and award-winning service, mentioned that the business soon would be moving to a larger building, purchased the previous year. The new location, at 811 Merchant St., previously Jay's Floor Covering store, would undergo extensive remodeling before a grand opening. Mikush Appliances has done business there ever since.
Mikush family in appliance store
811 Merchant St.
credit: Beaver County Times, March 23, 1997

Caption under photo above:
The Mikush family has been in business in Ambridge since the 1930s. From left are Whitey Mikush, Bob Mikush, Andrew Mikush and Bryan Mikush.
Andrew Jr. retired in 2001. His grandson, Bryan, now owns and operates the business.

Over the years, Mikush Appliances was recognized on several occasions by Maytag for their outstanding sales and service including the Maytag Red Carpet Service Excellence Award and the Outstanding Maytag Dealer Award. Bob Mikush also was invited to speak at the National Home Appliance Center Convention--twice. Even TV's lonely Maytag Repairman visited.
The lonely Maytag Repairman (actor Gordon Jump) visits Mikush Appliances
On left: WMBA announcer Dave Justice
On right: Andrew Mikush, Jr. and Al Serak
June 14, 1996
courtesy Bob Mikush

Recently, there's been a twist to the Mikush Appliances story: Despite the signs on the business that still say "Maytag," the store stopped selling Maytag appliances a few years ago. Bob Mikush said that after Maytag was sold to Whirlpool in 2005, the quality of appliances sold under the Maytag name just wasn't up to Mikush Appliances' standards that customers expected. 

Yet, amazingly, despite the competition from today's big box stores and the development of new shopping areas like Cranberry and Robinson Township, the store still sells appliances, although the models on display aren't as numerous as they once were. Most of its business is now in repairs and selling parts. But personal customer service is still its focus.

Some other things that make Mikush Home Appliance Center special:

- The business truly has been a family business for four generations. In addition to the founder Andrew Sr., Mikush family members who have been involved in the business include: Andrew Sr.'s sons, Andrew Jr. and Steve; grandsons Andrew (Whitey) and Bob and granddaughter Roberta; and great-grandson Bryan.

Roberta Mikush Sculli provided this memory:

My mom maintained the flower container outside the store, vacuumed and kept the store clean. When we were located across the street, I remember my grandmother coming to serve lunch. It was a full lunch like they ate in Europe. They ate their main meal at lunch.  My grandfather locked the front door and we all ate together.

- Bob Mikush will repair lamps at the store.

Bob Mikush with lamps needing repair
November 25, 2015
courtesy Ambridge Area Chamber of Commerce

- The store has decades of both Maytag and Ambridge memorabilia on display.

- Bob Mikush is a wonderful source of information about Ambridge's history.

- The business has been a frequent supporter of many Ambridge events, schools, and organizations.

Friday, December 17, 2021

The new block of 4th Street: Park Road to Ohio River Blvd., 1945 - '46

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
April 10, 1946
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

The photo above shows the practically brand-new intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St. The photo must have been taken from the American Bridge Office building which stood southwest of the new intersection.

John Domansky IDed the small building on the southwest corner of the intersection as belonging to the gas company. But so far, I don't have any confirming information.

Here are more views of the new brick-paved intersection:

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
north side of American Bridge Office shown on upper left
American Bridge Co. plant in background, right
April 10, 1946
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
looking west toward American Bridge Co. plant
American Bridge Office building on left
April 10, 1946
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
American Bridge Park on right
American Bridge Co. plant in background
April 4, 1946
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
looking toward 400 block of Park Rd.
April 10, 1946
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

That house on the corner of Park Rd. and 4th St. is still there, as is the darker house on Park Rd. above it, only now there's another house between them. 

During the spring and summer of 1945, that new block of 4th St. had been constructed to connect Park Rd. to the new extension of Ohio River Blvd. from the Allegheny County line to Ambridge's 8th St.

Ohio River Blvd. and 4th St.
looking east from Ohio River Blvd.
American Bridge Office building on right
October 18, 1945
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Ohio River Blvd. and 4th St. 
construction on 4th St.
American Bridge Co. plant in background
October 18, 1945
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Construction of 4th St. between Park Rd. and Ohio River Blvd.
north side of American Bridge Office bldg.
October 18, 1945
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Intersection of Park Rd. and 4th St.
looking west toward American Bridge plant
October 18, 1945
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

I believe that the sign to the right of the parked car says:
"Entrance at Merchant St. to American Bridge Co. and Penna. R. R. Station"

But extending 4th St. from Park Rd. to the boulevard had a legal complication: the land needed for the extension was owned by the American Bridge Co. The extension would go right through the American Bridge Park.

The legal issues involved in extending 4th St. through American Bridge's private property was nicely resolved in a "Deed of Dedication" which was memorialized as Ambridge Borough's Ordinance No. 562. Here's the beginning of the lengthy handwritten ordinance which included the signed deed:

An ordinance approving and accepting a Deed of Dedication from the American Bridge Company for the purpose of dedicating to public use that portion of Fourth Street, extended, in the said Borough of Ambridge, between Park Road and the new Pennsylvania State Highway.
In the deed, the American Bridge Co. agreed to give Ambridge Borough the legal right to the portion of 4th St. between Park Rd. and the new extension of Ohio River Blvd. For that right, Ambridge paid American Bridge Co. $1.00.

Thanks to the Borough of Ambridge's Marilyn Sheleheda for scanning Ordinance No. 562 for me. The ordinance was not only not available online, but bound in a large book with other old handwritten ordinances. Scanning that couldn't have been easy.